So maybe you’re at the stage of your anime fandom where you’ve begun to appreciate anime for more than just the plot or just the characters! Maybe you’ve gone and branched out into the musical side of the anime fandom; it might have been the catchy J-pop OP/ED that did it or perhaps it was the beautiful soundtrack that grabbed at your attention and kept you engrossed. Whatever it was, you then decided that you had to have the soundtrack CD so you could experience the wondrous memories of the anime by listening to the music. Not content to have a mere mp3 file, you decided to scour eBay or some online shop to get a physical CD. I mean, you love the music and want to make sure the artist gets a cut of it too, right? Then you went and shared the latest anime CD you’ve acquired by taking a picture of it and posting it on twitter… only for the recipient of the picture to bemoan the fact that you have purchased the dreaded bootleg music CD!
Well, that’s exactly what happened to ratsavage/Joojoobees (of Abandoned Factory Anime Reviews), that’s happened to one of this site’s contributors, and that’s also happened to me. Needless to say, it’s quite a shocker to find out that something you spent hard-earned money on isn’t the genuine article and it frankly sucks. In this day and age of digital music files, it takes someone who’s quite the fanatic (whether it’s about anime soundtracks in general or some specific composer) to actually shell out for a physical disc, and the last thing I want to see is money going to a bootlegger than the real deal if the intention is to enjoy the real disc. So with that in mind, here’s my 1-step method to make sure that what you buy is a genuine article. And best of all, I’m willing to bet it works 99.95% of the time!
Catalog numbers are your best friend
If you’ve ever looked through the anime music reviews on this site, you’ll notice that we always list something called a catalog number, usually made up of 4 letters, followed by a hyphen, then usually 1 to 5 numbers (eg: VTCL-60114 or SVWC-7681). The catalog number can often be found on the spine of the CD case and is also located on the back of the CD case. This piece of metadata generally tells you what company and label produced the CD (VICL = Victor Entertainment while SVWC = Sony’s Aniplex division) and the sequenced number within that company/label’s releases. If you want to see whether a CD you own or plan to buy is the real thing, the first thing to locate is the catalog number. And if you’re going to buy it from someone else on eBay (a notorious haven for bootleg anime music) or something, make sure they list the catalog number or you can easily locate it in the pictures they use.
As it turns out, bootlegged CDs have catalog numbers too! The good thing is that the number of bootlegging companies are fairly few in number and they become fairly easy to recognize after awhile. Off the top of my head, the most common bootleggers include:
- K-O Records: Their catalog number looks something like KO-1111
- SonMay Records: Their catalog number looks something like SMG-1111, GGG-1111, A&G-1111, and GSM-1111
- Alion International Records: Usually ALCA-1111 or something similar
- Miya Records: Generally MICA-1111
- Ever Anime International Records: Includes GM-1111, A8-1111, and AnG-1111
So yeah, if you spot any of these prefixes in your collection and a check for the company that produced the CD matches with any of those above, then you’ve got a bootleg on your hands. Not only did your money not go towards the artists you love so much, the quality might not even be up to par compared to the original. If you’ve been fortunate and not have had to purge any bootlegs from your collection, then let this guide serve as a way for you to filter out future purchases for any fakes.
Finally, if you are looking for places to purchase physical anime music CDs (for whatever reason), CDJapan, Play-Asia, and YesAsia are generally good places to shop (especially with the decline in the Japanese yen making stuff cheaper). If you’re more budget-conscious like me but are fortunate enough to live near a Book-Off, I’d poke around there, though I have seen quite a few bootlegs appear here and there (so keep Anime Instrumentality or VGMdb in mind when you find a CD that you really want to buy for catalog number confirmation purposes!). Mandarake stores are also a good choice, but their eCommerce site isn’t too user-friendly for English speakers, so you might face a few hurdles when using it. If you’re especially brave, you can try perusing YahooJapan auctions. Finally, aside from a few select sellers, eBay is not a place I’d recommend you use if you’re looking for anime soundtracks.
So with that, happy hunting and hope you find some musical gems along the way!